Is prayer as simple as presence?

Here? Vassilis Londos/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I once had a spiritual director who described how she regularly had "tea with God." She'd brew a fresh cup, retire to her armchair, and watch the sun set. No recitations, no rosaries, no lectio divina. Just tea, nature, and presence.

I've been digging the daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation lately, and faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault wrote one week:

I believe the West’s key contribution to the understanding of nondual perception is that this highest-order (“third tier”) level of consciousness is not a mere extension of the mind. It implies and requires the shift to an entirely different operating system, which is anatomically located in the heart—or better yet, in the mind in entrainment or in tune with the heart. This may be what the ancient spiritual masters from the Christian East meant in the Philokalia by “putting the mind in the heart.”

No reason, no rationalizing, no formal discourse. Just oneness, consciousness, and presence.

And then I read this passage from "Compassion"(here's the previous time I cited this book) just the other day:

Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.

No yammering, no posturing, no forging ahead. Just pausing, listening, and being present.

Sense the theme?

All these years I've berated myself for being "bad at prayer," when I think the truth is more that I simply lack a regular, concentrated presence. I am too goal-oriented, too driven by human words (who, me?!) in a space and practice that exists beyond benchmarks and language. To relinquish these parameters is to release my puny mind and forgive my even punier capabilities.

Again, as the Center for Action and Contemplation (this time Fr. Richard Rohr, emphasis his) puts it:

Our focus eventually moves from preoccupation with perfect actions of any type, to naked presence itself. The historical word for presence is simply “prayer.” Jesus often called it “vigilance,” “seeing,” or “being awake.” When you are fully present, you will know what you need to know in that moment.

Presence is prayer. Simple (though not easy) as that. I can go to God first. I can exist from my steady heart instead of my racing brain. I can move through my divine attention deficit disorder. I can brew a cup of tea. I too can pray.

Prayer #311: Tea with God



We are here.

We are enough.